Fontmell Magna and General Elections

47 Church St serving as an election office

Before 1832, only male landowners could vote. The Reform Act 1832 extended voting rights to adult males who rented property of a certain value but, even so, only about 440,000 men in the whole country could vote (about 1 in 7 men), and no women.

Some of the old (“rotten”) boroughs had survived in 1832 (such as Shaftesbury and Bridport), but others had been absorbed into new constituencies – North, East, West and South Dorset. Although constituency boundaries later altered several times, since 1884 Fontmell voters have belonged to the constituency of North Dorset.

The Representation of the People Act 1884 significantly increased the overall voting population (to 5.5 million), although 40% of males were still disenfranchised because of the property qualification and women could still not vote. The 1885 Electoral Register lists 106 voters for the Parish of Fontmell Magna (seven ownership voters and 99 occupation voters). The ownership voters were Edwin James Edwards (West Street), George Edwards (Haskells), Jeremiah Edwards (Woodbridge), Robert Edwards (Knap), Henry Hart (Woodbridge), James Hart (Bedchester) and William Spicer (Parsonage Street).

The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave almost all men over 21, and women with property over 30, the vote. This increased the electorate to 21.4 million with women making up 8.5 million of the electorate. The 1919 Electoral Register for Fontmell lists 205 voters (of whom 107 were women).

It was not until 1928 that almost all men and women over 21 could vote with no property restrictions. The age limit was reduced to 18 in 1969.

47 Church St election office


Liberal Party Office at the Old Bakery, Cleeve Cottage, Church Street. Arthur Walters Wills was elected as the North Dorset MP in the 1905 by-election (majority 909) and retained the seat in the 1906 General Election (majority 645). He was defeated by the Conservatives (by 32 votes) in 1910.                    


Since 1885, North Dorset has been held by the Conservatives, with brief spells when it was held by the Liberals, these being 1885-1892, 1905-1910, 1922-1924 and 1945-1950 (a total of 19 years). From 1885 to 1929, the elections were fought between only the Liberals and Conservatives. The first Labour candidate (Colin Clark) stood in the 1929 election, and came third.

While Labour have contested the seat at every election since (except those in 1931, 1937 and 1945), it has never come above third, and was twice forced into fourth place. The first time this happened was in 1935 on the one occasion that there was a candidate representing the North Dorset Agricultural League (G. H. L. F. Pitt-Rivers), and the second time was in 2015 when UKIP came second.

North Dorset MPs



Party Majority Turnout
1885 Edwin Berkeley Portman Liberal
1892 John Wingfield-Digby Conservative
1900 John Wingfield-Digby Conservative 540 6,870 (82.6%)
1905 by-election Arthur Walters Wills Liberal 909 7,597 (90.8%)
1906 Arthur Walters Wills Liberal 645 7,661 (90.2%)
1910 January Sir Randolf Baker Conservative 149
1910 December Sir Randolf Baker Conservative 32 7,806 (91.6%)
1918 William Colfox Conservative 212
1922 John Emlyn-Jones Liberal 936 20,674
1923 John Emlyn-Jones Liberal 781 22,160
1924 Sir Cecil Hanbury Conservative 1,478
1929 Sir Cecil Hanbury Conservative 922 25,782 (81.4%)
1931 Sir Cecil Hanbury Conservative 4,817 26,181 (82.1%)
1935 Sir Cecil Hanbury Conservative 3,184 26,057 (79.7%)
1937 by-election Angus Valdemar Hambro Conservative 543 23,951 (73.4%)
1945 Frank Byers Liberal 1,965 26,923 (75.4%)
1950 Robert Crouch Conservative 97 35,358 (85%)
1951 Robert Crouch Conservative 747 36,983 (86.4%)
1955 Robert Crouch Conservative 7,159 36,286 (82.2%)
1957 by-election Sir Richard Hamilton Glyn Conservative 3,102 34,372 (75.8%)
1959 Sir Richard Hamilton Glyn Conservative 8,651 38,407 (82%)
1964 Sir Richard Hamilton Glyn Conservative 5,130 40,919 (81.7%)
1966 Sir Richard Hamilton Glyn Conservative 5,515 42,615 (81.3%)
1970 David James Conservative 16,376 49,192 (78.5%)
1974 February David James Conservative 6,883 59,725 (84.4%)
1974 October David James Conservative 8,541 56,486 (79.2%)
1979 Nicholas Baker Conservative 23,296 64,339 (79.7%)
1983 Nicholas Baker Conservative 11,380 51,740 (76.6%)
1987 Nicholas Baker Conservative 11,907 57,620 (79.1%)
1992 Nicholas Baker Conservative 10,080 62,748 (81.8%)
1997 Robert Walter Conservative 2,746 53,287 (76.3%)
2001 Robert Walter Conservative 3,797 47,821 (66.3%)
2005 Robert Walter Conservative 2,244 52,815 (71.1%)
2010 Robert Walter Conservative 7,625 54,141 (73.5%)
2015 Simon Hoare Conservative 21,118 53,385 (71.6%)

The first woman candidate was Miss M. M. Whitehead, Labour, in 1935.   UKIP fielded a candidate for the first time in the 1997 election (801 votes) and have fought every one since, with their vote increasing each time: 1,019 in 2001, 1,918 in 2005, 2,812 in 2010 and 9,109 in 2015 (coming second). The Greens fielded a candidate for the first time in 2005, their votes being 1,117 in 2005, 546 in 2010 and 3,038 in 2015. As well as the North Dorset Agricultural League in 1935, a number of parties fielded candidates once only. These were the Wessex Regionalist Party (1983), Referendum Party (1997), Lower Excise Duty Party (2001), and Monster Raving Loony Party (2010). There was an independent candidate in both 1957 and 2001.

Since 1950, the Liberals/Liberal Democrats have been second behind the Conservatives at every election except in 2015, when they were third behind UKIP. Unsuccessful Liberal candidates include the Hon. Michael Berkeley Portman in 1955 (11,747 votes), Philip George Watkins in 1970 (12,095 votes), February 1974 (23,405 votes) and October 1974 (20,350 votes), and Dr Geoffrey Tapper in 1983 (18,678 votes) and 1987 (20,947 votes).

Xmas Bazaar 1972

Christmas 1972 – Philip George Watkins (Liberal Parliamentary candidate 1974) at a bazaar in Fontmell Village Hall with Mrs Lionel Christopher (50) and helpers – Olive Philpott holding ‘Angel Delight’. Philip Watkins was the unsuccessful Liberal candidate in 1970 and in the two 1974 elections.



Sir Richard Hamilton Glyn

In the 1911 census, Richard Hamilton Glyn is recorded as living in Cross House with his father Richard Fitzgerald Glyn, then aged 35, his mother Hilda (29), and his younger brother Gerald and sister Joanna. His great grandfather, Sir Richard Plumptre Glyn, had acquired most of Fontmell Magna from the Arundell family in 1807, but it was probably the death in 1918 of his grandfather, Sir Richard George Glyn, and the death duties that became payable, that caused his father, Sir Richard Fitzgerald Glyn to sell the family’s interests in the parish. This was achieved in three sales, in 1919 (mostly farmland), 1926 and 1927, with the bulk of the village houses sold in 1926.

Glyn was first chosen by the local Conservatives to defend the North Dorset seat at the 1945 General Election, but was defeated by the Liberal candidate Frank Byers. At the 1957 by-election, caused by the death of the sitting Conservative MP, Robert Crouch (who had been MP since gaining the seat in 1950), Glyn was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament and remained the MP until 1970.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Hamilton Glyn, 9th Baronet OBE, TD, DL (1907–1980) had an interest in livestock derived from his work on the remaining family estates in Dorset, which he farmed from the 1940s. He wrote what became a standard reference work, Bull Terriers and How to Breed Them, was Chairman of Crufts for 10 years and was Chairman of the Kennel Club. He was also a Commonwealth War Graves Commissioner. He wrote a history of the Dorset Yeomanry, the regiment he served in during the Second World War.

Dr Geoffrey Tapper

Dr Geoffrey Tapper

Dr Geoffrey Tapper

 Dr Tapper is a long-time member of the Fontmell Archive Society and has been a Methodist lay preacher for some 50 years. His grandfather, John Tapper, lived at Woodbridge Mill from 1919 to 1946. His grandmother was Kate Rose, youngest daughter of Job Rose, the miller at Woodbridge Mill until his death in 1871 aged 59. Dr Tapper’s father, William, was a Methodist Minister and the Rose family were also devout Methodists.

Dr Tapper was a local GP for 30 years and, despite his busy practice, he found time to take part in local politics. He became a Borough Councillor in Shaftesbury (and served as Mayor of Shaftesbury in 1975). Having stood for Parliament in 1983 and 1987, he became a County Councillor in 1989. For four years, he was Dorset County Council’s Chairman of Social Services. From 1993 to 1997, he was the leader of the Liberal Democrats’ largest council.

Dr Tapper stood down as a councillor in May 2000. For 30 years, he was chair of the Churches Together Trust. This Trust bought the Castle Hill House GP Maternity Unit when it closed down in 1983 and reopened it as a Nursing Home. The Trust was also involved with The Cedars. He remains a trustee of Shaftesbury Museum and of Nordcat.

Fontmell Magna Surgery

Fontmell Magna is unusual in having a village GP surgery and has had one since at least 1911 when the census records Dr James Appleyard as living at Glebe Cottage, Parsonage Street. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was followed by Dr Robin Lees, who served in the Second World War. Dr Lees held his surgery in his converted garden shed in Estyard, Parsonage Street. He also worked in partnership with Dr Wallace Chapman, David Arnott and Fred Powell (all living in Shaftesbury) from a small bungalow in Barton Hill, opposite Shaftesbury Upper School’s boarding house.

Dr Lees died in his 40’s in 1960, leaving a widow and two daughters. They converted Estyard into a small country hotel. Dr Lees was replaced by Dr Tapper, who used his country surgery three times a week. Later in the 1960’s, Dr Tapper moved his surgery to the Sunday School adjoining the Methodist Chapel, next to the village shop. The chapel kitchen became the waiting room. This arrangement continued until Dr Tapper retired in 1990. In 1993, the practice had a separate bungalow surgery built and equipped next to the Village Hall in West Street. The practice then consisted of Drs. C. T. Hewetson, D. M. C. Brewin, A. W. Weir, D. M. Wynn-Mackenzie, Sue Daddy and R. J. Emms, and was based at The Health Centre, Bimport, Shaftesbury.

Portrait of Dr Geoffrey Tapper

Dr Geoffrey Tapper Oil 32″ x 36″ (Phyllis Wolff)

Some reflections from Dr Tapper on life as a local GP (April 2015)

“When I arrived in 1960, the practice dispensed some of the simple medication in the surgery. I was surprised to find seven lager bottles of liquid medicines with adjacent tumblers in the room behind the examination room. The bottles were labelled 1, 2, 3, 4a, 4b, 5 and 6. A piece of paper in my desk identified these numbers as cough medicine, tonic, tummy settler, diarrhoea settler, etc. As is the case today, most medicines were on prescription serviced by chemists in the town.

There was no appointment system in Fontmell. Any patient could (and did) walk in and sit, awaiting their turn. The surgery served any patients of the practice. These came mainly from Fontmell, Sutton Waldron, Iwerne Minster, Compton Abbas, The Orchards, Margaret Marsh and Ashmore.

The waiting room was usually an amiable talking shop. Certain residents were great adornments, with their chat and friendly exchange of symptoms and other gossip. Charlie Andrews of Mill Street, wartime groundsman of Fontmell Golf Club, was a most welcome visitor, but there were many competitors!

Patients who could not attend the surgery would be visited at home. The reduction in home visits in recent years is, together with the use of computer, the most notable development in general medical practice, in my opinion. I find I did an average of about 100 home visits a week, every week (not including the three weeks annual holiday), throughout my 30 years in the practice surgery.

Conditions were (slightly) less primitive in the bungalow surgery in Shaftesbury, which I shared with Drs. Chapman and Powell. Shaftesbury is blessed in having use of the Westminster Memorial Hospital with beds, X-ray facilities, physiotherapy and casualty departments. Castle Hill House, over the road in Bimport, was run by the GPs in the district. It closed in 1983 because it was becoming too expensive. In our ageing area, the birth rate had fallen, making a GP maternity hospital unviable.

Now the growth industry in and around Fontmell and district is care of the elderly. So there are three care homes for old people in Shaftesbury – St. Denis, Castle Hill House and The Cedars. There will be more!

The only health issue in Fontmell I can identify is a small outbreak of renal colic in the 1960s and 70s, with or without kidney stones, caused unexpectedly by the abundance of strawberries. Strawberries are rich in oxalic acid, which irritates the kidneys and the tubes leading down to the bladder, causing much pain”.

Author: Chris Bellers